Tips for Grads: Networking strategies every grad should know

By Emily Azevedo-Casey, PhD student

In this article, we will explore some lesser-known networking strategies that you can implement right now, at any stage of your grad career, even if you aren’t actively job searching. Building a network takes time, so the earlier you start, the more practice you get, and the more opportunities can come your way. These tips, from Beyond the Professoriate’s recent webinar, “How to Network When You Don’t Have A Network”, are intended to empower and encourage you to make the most out of the networking resources available to you while at UW.

Create SMART networking goals. Make it a point to regularly research and connect to the types of careers and roles you might be interested in. For instance, on Wednesdays, I review posts on a professional listserv and on Fridays, I connect with at least one person on there. Every three months, I check back in with my contacts with relevant updates or comment thoughtfully on their professional social media posts. Here’s a past Tips for Grads that describes SMART goals in more detail.

Be genuine, honest, and interested in your approach. When you meet, avoid transactional interactions by having a clear purpose, coming prepared with questions, and intentionally following up. When I go into networking opportunities, one of my main goals is to understand how the person got to where they are now, so I ask questions about that.

Connect with your peers. Prioritize people who are similar in age and are earlier in their roles, as well as people who have gone through similar challenges or experiences because they will have more insight for you right now than recruiters or senior executives. Start with people you know. For international grads who want to stay in the U.S., connect with peers who have also gone through this. On LinkedIn, filter by institutions from your home country and U.S. locations where you want to live and work. Join the UW–Madison LinkedIn group now.

Networking can be awkward or overwhelming at first, so have a plan and use resources like LinkedIn, campus events, and alumni contacts to begin your journey. Log into your free account with Beyond the Professoriate or Beyond Graduate School, both of which have similar webinars about “How to Network When You Don’t Have a Network”, for a place to start. Finally, continue to watch GradConnections for campus networking events.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.